Microsoft applies for patent outlining “inconspicuous mode”

Tablet glowing in the darkJust because a company applies for or even receives a patent, it doesn’t necessarily mean the feature will end up in a future product. As Microsoft does from time to time, the company applied for a new patent recently. This one is called “inconspicuous mode” and if it ever makes it to Windows Phone, the world will be a slightly happier place.

“Inconspicuous mode” works by not only turning down the brightness but also minimizing the user interface on screen. It’s best to describe this patent with an example. Smartphone brightness in general is at an optimal level, offering enough light to make our screens visible in direct sunlight. However, in certain environments that brightness can cause some bothersome issues.

Microsoft's "Inconspicuous Mode"Take the theater for instance. Like illustrated in the photo, most users take out their smartphone during a movie to check the time or perform a similar, quick action. But in a darkened room, even the lockscreen can be an annoying distraction to fellow audience members. Microsoft proposes then that the interface be stripped to the bare minimum and show only the current time, removing the notifications and bright background image. The patent is a really neat idea and the software’s ability to detect certain conditions automatically, like a darkened room, make it even more promising. Since it has such an obvious real-world use and doesn’t seem too difficult to implement, we could definitely see “inconspicuous mode” making its way to a future iteration of Windows Phone.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no official plans to roll out the feature. A spokesperson for the company responded to an inquiry from Engadget with the type of canned response expected in this situation, stating Microsoft “regularly applies for and receives patents” and “not all” of them show up in shipped products. Fortunately for Windows Phone fans, a typical response like that proves nothing. Microsoft could very well be working on the feature but unwilling to talk about it at this time.

With any luck, Windows Phone could usher in a new era of smartphones that know when it’s polite to be discreet. It could also help minimize the shock of an incredibly bright screen assaulting your vision in the morning. Like the concept Surface Phone, we’d like to officially add this to our wish list.

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